What Should I Feed My Dog?
What you feed your dog may the the very best way you can upgrade your dog’s health, extend their life, and keep them disease-free. But when you’re looking for the best way to feed your dog, it can get confusing. Keep in mind that every dog is different. That’s why I talk about 4 different healthy ways to feed your dog so you can find the one that works for you and your dog.
But first, understanding what your dog needs to eat to stay healthy will help you make the best choice…
What Your Dog Needs
First of all, just like people, dogs need nutrients. They need all kinds of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and macronutrients. If they don’t get enough of these things, they can lose energy, have their immune system depleted, and be vulnerable to all kinds of diseases.
Your dog’s DNA is 99.9% identical to their wolf ancestors. And their digestive systems are designed in the exact same way. So looking at what a wild wolf consumes, tells us what is best for our dogs. Each species has its own requirements and each one has to eat what it’s supposed to eat to be healthy.
Wolves eat meat from the animals they kill and get grains, vegetables, and fruit from the undigested food in the stomachs of their prey. (a little gross, I know, but true!) This is the diet that dogs are designed to eat. And the one that we need to use as a map to find the right diet for our dogs.
Because of this, my first recommendation when it comes to feeding your dog is to give them real food.
Yup, real food… like we eat.
What do I mean by real food?
- Protein from meat eggs or fish
- Some vegetables and fruit
- Some grains
(I’ll go into a lot more detail including what and how much below)
We’ll look at exactly what you should feed your dog in a moment, but first, let’s look at why you might want to ditch the commercial kibble.
First, let me just say that I am not a vet, but I have taken the advice of several vets to create this post. Particularly my holistic vet who helped me find the best way to feed my dogs. I’ll share what I do, and other healthy options that are available.
What’s Wrong With Commercial Pet Food?
60% of dogs will develop cancer
The rates of cancer and other diseases in dogs have gone up at an alarming rate over the past decade. Pet owners have been taken in by commercial food companies promising healthy food. They say they make a balanced diet in a convenient bag, but when you look just under the surface, it is eye-opening to look at what they are actually allowing us to feed our dogs. Many of the chemicals added to dog foods have been proven to cause cancer.
But dog food is a 60 billion dollar a year industry in the US alone and the big companies controlled the market…until recently.
A touch of history…
The early dog food companies that made canned dog food in the early 20th century were presented with a problem when World War 2 started. They were told that dog food could no longer come in cans. This was because the metal was needed for ammunition. They solved this problem by developing dry dog food that could be sold in bags.
What these companies learned over time is that while wild species will only eat biologically appropriate foods (a starving snake who is a meat-eater will not start eating grass to survive), dogs are more resilient. We can nutritionally abuse them by feeding them things they are not designed to eat, and they will eat them. They don’t die immediately but get sicker and sicker over time.
So kibble companies, dealing with no oversight, started filling foods with the least expensive ingredients. They added lots of preservatives to give their food a shelf-life of literally decades, and chemicals to give it a look and color that appealed to dog owners.
In 2008 with millions of bags of dog food were recalled when dogs who ate it started dying. Dog owners started to ask what was in the food they were feeding their dogs. And although dog food companies are still secretive about what they add to their foods, a lot of the facts behind dog food production were exposed.
Problems with kibble at a glance
- It puts your dog into a constant state of dehydration because it does not contain any moisture.
- It contains 2 potent carcinogens that are poisonous and cancer-causing for dogs. They are added because to give the food a long shelf-life.
- There are hundreds of chemicals that are allowed to be used in kibble.
- They usually contain corn, wheat, and soy as fillers. These cause dogs to be overweight and develop chronic skin diseases including diabetes, allergies, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders.
- The requirements for the wording on pet food bags are very lax. It can be very misleading in terms of what is included in the food.
- Dogs eating the same kibble over time are not getting any variety in their diet. This would be like eating McDonald’s for every meal for your entire life. (See Super Size Me)
- ‘By-products’ in dog food can be from many sources and are not disclosed by the dog food companies. These sources include animal carcasses that are being ‘recycled’, leftovers from human food processing plants, animal parts from slaughterhouses, or animals that have died on farms from disease.
If you are interested in learning more about how commercial dog food is made, take a look at Pet Fooled a documentary that goes into a lot more detail.
How to Decode Dog Food Claims
Another concern is that over the past few decades, the rules about what dog food packaging can say has changed. It has become more lenient and the claims on packaging has become very misleading. This makes it harder and harder for dog owners to figure out if a food is healthy or not. Here are some things you should know:
Package Wording Rules
Dinner, nugget, formula – If a dog food says it is a dinner, has nuggets of something, or claims to have a meat formula
It is only required to contains 25% of that food. For example, if your food says “Chicken Formula” it only needs to be 25% chicken.
With – If a dog food says ‘with’, as in ‘with chicken’ it is only required to have 3% chicken.
Flavor – If a dog food claims to have a flavor like “Chicken flavor”, it does not have to contain any chicken but can put a picture of the chicken on the bag.
Better Options To Choose From
Now you know why you might want to throw away your kibble, but what should you feed your dog? Well, it might take a little adjusting to a new habit, but incorporating one of these feeding changes can completely change your dog’s life. Here are 4 of the healthiest options:
1. Cook For Your Dog
Benefits of Making Your Own Dog Food
Think about all the things we get from the food we eat, and all the systems in our bodies that cannot function without the nutrients they get from our food.
Well, dogs are exactly the same. They need a variety of whole foods, that match the needs for their species, to get everything they need.
In fact, the life expectancy of a dog that is fed a homemade diet using high-quality food is 32 months longer than a dog fed commercial kibble. That’s almost 3 years.
One study showed that dogs that eat green vegetables 3x per week are 90% less likely to get cancer, and dogs that ate yellow and orange vegetables 3x per week were 70% less likely.
- Being able to change the ingredients as you discover what your dog likes, and what agrees with her stomach best.
- Diet management
- Appeasing picky eaters
- Whole ingredient-based diets are better in the long term
How to Make Your Own Dog Food
If you decide to make your own dog food, there are a lot of recipes out there. Just be aware that there is the right balance of macronutrients (1/2 Protein, 1/4 Grains, 1/4 vegetables and some fruit, and some healthy fat).
2. Get Real Food Delivered
Don’t want to cook your own food or need a break from cooking for awhile? No problem. There are some wonderful small companies that are making healthy whole-food dog food and they will ship it to your door!
Here are the ones we love and recommend:
Nom Nom, known for great quality at a lower price than their competitors, has 4 recipes created by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. They ask a few questions to create a custom plan for your dog, and send the right portions already separated.
Use this link to get 50% OFF and free shipping on your first order!
Pet Plate makes meals, meal toppers, and treats out of whole foods prepared in a human-grade kitchen. They have 4 different recipes you can choose from, and you can mix and match them to create a custom box.
3. Buy AIR-Dried KIBBLE
I am cautious about raw food diets (see below), but air-dried kibble gives you the benefits of a raw diet without as much contamination risk. If you would like to take on a raw food diet, but would like more convenience, the food below is made from raw whole foods that have been air-dried.
These are brands that I know and trust, and contain only whole foods. These can be a little pricy, so if you decide to shop around, make sure you only buy food with only whole human ingredients.
4. Feed 1/2 Real Food and 1/2 Kibble
If you can’t make the switch to a complete diet of whole food, consider adding real food to your dog’s kibble. Scramble a couple of eggs, blend some veggies, add some oatmeal. Every time you do, you’ll increase your dog’s nutrition, boost their health, and decrease the amount of chemicals your dog is eating.
Why not raw?
Why aren’t we recommending a raw food diet? There is a lot of evidence that raw food diets are very good for dogs, but they are tricky to get right. Although the bacterias that can be on the raw meat doesn’t affect your dog, it can affect you. If the raw meat is not properly handled, the contamination can cause your family to get ill. These bacterias can also spread in your yard where your dog poops. And, if you have anyone in your family that is immune-compromised, you should definitely avoid preparing raw food for your dog.
If you are willing to take on the risk, and learn how to source and handle the meat properly, raw can be a very healthy option for your dog. But I recommend lightly cooked food instead. It is great for your dog, and can be safer for your family.
I know that feeding our dogs from a bag is so ingrained in our culture, that you might not have ever questioned it before. But knowledge is power. And when you know more about where your dog’s food came from, and what exactly is in it, you can make better choices. Use these options to answer the question “What Should I Feed My Dog”, and you will upgrade your dog’s health, extend their life, and help to keep them disease-free. I know we all would like our beloved pups to be around forever, and changing up their diet is a great way to add months or even years to their lives.
We sometimes use affiliate links in our content for products we love and recommend. If you buy through our links, we will get a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
Other Posts You Might Like
Homeopathic medicine is an effective, safe, inexpensive, and all-natural way to treat your dog. Whether your dog gets a cut, fever, or is suddenly vomiting, there is a homeopathic remedy that can help. Although these remedies were widely used by vets in the nineteenth...
What changes can you make to improve your dog’s health? A shift to natural dog care can help your dog stay healthy, lessen your vet bills, and keep your dog happy and feeling good. It can also improve behavioral problems, and lower your dog’s anxiety. And, maybe most...
Dog’s paws go through a lot, especially in cold weather, but there are natural ways to take care of their piggies and keep them healthy. Keep an eye on your dog’s paws in the winter months to make sure they’re not dry or cracked. Once paws get dry and start to crack,...